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What is the difference between financial guidance and financial advice, and why does it matter?

As you edge closer to retirement, the financial landscape can appear more complex than ever. As a result, you might be seeking assistance to make decisions about your financial future. 

Two terms that frequently come up in these discussions are ‘financial guidance’ and ‘financial advice’. Understanding the difference between these two concepts is crucial to ensure you are speaking to the right people for your needs, and that you only pay for the services you really need.

We’ve put together the following to help you understand the difference between these two concepts.

Financial guidance: a roadmap to understanding

Financial guidance serves as a valuable starting point for anyone contemplating retirement. It aims to equip individuals with a good understanding of the service that you’re exploring so you can make an informed decision, but it won’t tell you what the best option for you is.

Financial guidance is typically free of charge and available from a wide range of individuals and organisations that may or may not be regulated. 

For instance, whilst Retirement Line doesn’t provide pension annuity advice, we do provide a specialist annuity guidance and arrangement service. We are fully regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, providing peace of mind for our annuity customers.

Think of financial guidance as a roadmap, offering accurate and insightful information without delving into personalised recommendations. While it can't tell you exactly what to do, it empowers you with crucial knowledge needed to make informed decisions.

Financial advice: certainty for those who need it

On the other hand, financial advice is a more in-depth service provided by qualified professionals who must be authorised to give advice by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The key take-out from financial advice is that you will be recommended a specific course of action by your adviser.

Seeking financial advice involves a detailed and holistic analysis of your specific circumstances, current and future goals, and your risk tolerance. This enables your adviser to make a tailored recommendation to help you achieve your financial objectives. 

However, personalised advice from a financial adviser can be expensive, so searching for the right service for your budget and individual requirements is important.

Financial advisers can guide you through intricate decisions, such as investment strategies, pension annuity advice and drawdown options, estate planning and more. Importantly, financial advice comes with a duty of care, ensuring that the recommendations align with your best interests.

Financial guidance vs financial advice: a comparison

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says that “clear explanations of ‘advice’ and ‘guidance’ are vital to enable consumers to get help with important financial decisions”. 

To help you compare the two, here are the typical characteristics and expectations of financial guidance vs. financial advice.

A comparison of guidance vs guidance


Financial guidance


Financial advice


Financial guidance is impartial and will help you to identify your options and narrow down your choices.


Financial advice is personalised to you and will help you to identify the best option for you based on your current circumstances and future goals.


The guidance you receive will not tell you what to do or which product to buy. It will suggest options for what you ‘could’ do.


The advice you receive should recommend a specific product or course of action for you to take, based on your unique circumstances and financial goals.


Providers of guidance are responsible for the accuracy and quality of the information they provide, but not for any decision you make based on it. 


Providers of advice are responsible and liable for the accuracy, quality and suitability of the recommendation that they make and you are protected by law.


Guidance is provided free of charge unless your provider clearly tells you otherwise.


You will usually pay a fee for advice. Fees will be disclosed before you are asked to commit yourself.


Guidance is provided by an organisation or individual which may or may not be regulated. (Retirement Line are however regulated and authorised by the FCA to provide guidance on annuities.)


Advice is always provided by a qualified and regulated individual or by a regulated organisation. 

Why do the differences matter?

Understanding the distinction between financial guidance and financial advice is essential for several reasons:

Cost implications

Financial guidance is typically free, sometimes offered by government-backed organisations such as Money Helper. In contrast, financial advice involves fees or charges for the professional services rendered. Knowing when to seek guidance and when to invest in personalised advice can save you money.


Financial advice provides a bespoke approach, taking into account your unique circumstances. If you have specific financial goals or a complex financial situation, seeking advice ensures that the recommendations are tailored to your needs.

Regulatory protection

All financial advisers in the UK are regulated by the FCA. Whilst organisations and individuals providing guidance can be regulated, not all are, so you would have to check first to decide if you want to go ahead with them. 

When someone providing your advice or guidance is regulated it ensures a level of consumer protection. This helps safeguard your interests when receiving important information regarding your finances. 

For your peace of mind, Retirement Line is authorised and regulated by the FCA.

Decision-making confidence

While financial guidance provides a foundational understanding, financial advice can offer a more in-depth analysis and a recommendation of what you need to do. 

If you struggle to make decisions on your own or feel unsure about what to do, seeking advice can help to foster confidence in your financial decisions. This could be particularly helpful as you navigate the complexities of retirement planning.

However, if you feel confident making a decision based on receiving comprehensive information about a product or service, then specialist guidance could be all that you need to make the right decision for you.

Annuity guidance from Retirement Line

Although Retirement Line doesn’t provide a pension annuity advice service, our Annuity Specialists will provide you with all the information you need to decide if a pension annuity is right for you. 

With a range of options to explore, your dedicated specialist will take the time to explain each option, and what annuity rates are currently available, and provide as many free quotations as you need. If you decide to go ahead, we’ll guide you through every step of the process, even completing your paperwork on your behalf. 

Don’t delay, speak to our friendly team today on 0800 652 1316 or request a free call back by clicking here.

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